Gymnasts from 4 nations tumbled, leapt and spun by a pleasant meet in Tokyo on Sunday in a closely-watched occasion geared toward displaying the world Japan can safely perform the postponed 2020 Olympics in an period of coronavirus.
Thirty gymnasts from Japan, the USA, China and Russia, together with Japan’s triple Olympic gold medallist Kohei Uchimura and Russia’s 2019 World Champion Nikita Nagornyy, took half within the first worldwide occasion at a Tokyo Olympic venue because the Video games’ postponement in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The one-off pleasant occasion was seen as a vital trial run for having worldwide athletes journey to and compete in Japan throughout the Olympics, which can deliver greater than 11,000 athletes to Tokyo subsequent July. A couple of worldwide matches have been held lately, however stay uncommon.
A gap message from Worldwide Olympic Committee (IOC) head Thomas Bach highlighted the stakes for the meet, which appeared briefly threatened final week when Uchimura had what turned out to be a false constructive virus check.
Lauding the “Olympic values” of friendship and solidarity – the names of groups into which the athletes have been divided no matter nation or gender – Bach mentioned the meet performed a vital position.
“You might be additionally setting an instance that sport will be organised safely even below ongoing well being restrictions,” he mentioned in a video message.
“…Giving us confidence in our preparation for future occasions, specifically in fact with a watch to the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympic Video games.”
Spectators on the venue, designed by Kenzo Tange for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, clapped enthusiastically however didn’t cheer, conscious of posted guidelines in opposition to it – besides when Uchimura, who hadn’t competed internationally for 2 years because of harm, accomplished an electrifying horizontal bar routine.
Uchimura, whose “Solidarity” crew edged “Friendship” to win, mentioned the meet went past sport.
“It’s vital to work in direction of the Olympics subsequent yr, however we should even be athletes who provide you with hope and desires,” Uchimura mentioned.
Gymnasts, examined day by day for the virus, wore masks as they marched into the gymnasium behind nationwide flags, and there have been fist bumps of congratulations as a substitute of hugs or excessive fives.
Although some athletes mentioned it had been laborious to maneuver solely between their resort and the health club, U.S. gymnast Yul Muldauer mentioned he’d simply been blissful to compete once more.
“To proceed competitions, to proceed the Olympic yr, we’ve to be extra secure than you’d ever count on,” he instructed a post-match information convention.
The two,000-some spectators had temperature checks and have been misted with disinfectant on entrance.
A handful of demonstrators outdoors referred to as for the Olympics to be cancelled, however spectators shrugged them off.
“I’ll do every thing to cooperate, as a result of I actually need this to succeed,” mentioned beautician Kanako Utsumi, 43.
“It’s actually vital for the athletes – and the Olympics.”
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant and Elaine Lies; Modifying by William Mallard & Simon Cameron-Moore)